My Media Week: Nick Vale

Last week Nick Vale, the seasoned global planning director at Maxus, saw Cannes through fresh eyes when he took a young team of five out to experience world-class creativity first hand.

Nick Vale: global planning director at Maxus
Nick Vale: global planning director at Maxus


A fairly standard start for me at 5:30 am, when Felix (6) jumps into our bed, followed by Allegra (4) and Isabella (8). They join forces to make a tent out of the duvet. Myself and my wife Nicky finally get up when Allegra sneaks out and starts drawing on the wall.

I get the kids ready then realise it's Cannes time and I still haven't packed. Chaotic packing ensues, then I hotfoot it to Heathrow, where I find the entire ad industry ready to decamp. Among the many familiar faces at Terminal 5 I spot Mark Waugh, who appears neither to have aged, nor grown since I saw him last in 1999 (we worked together at Optimedia). Amazingly, he recognizes me too.

I arrive at Nice on the ‘advertising express’ and meet my entourage. I’m taking five young Maxus people from across our worldwide network as part of Endeavour, one of a number of projects in place to enthuse young talent and help steer the creative direction of the agency. They are jetlagged, excited and overwhelmed and I can see why; the scale of the festival is astonishing. Their brief is to experience world-class creativity and report back to their markets.

Having settled into the hotel, I chuckle at the Endeavour girls buying swimming costumes. Time for sunbathing? Wishful thinking.

Over dinner on the beach, we have the usual debate about whether clients allow us to be creative and whether media people are so busy these days that a long distance view is becoming a luxury. Both debates are, to me, redundant – if the work is excellent and we’re enthused enough we’ll get it through regardless.

Two bottles of wine later and I’m enjoying some fabulous seafood…I could get used to this.


It's an early start as I’m judging the Young Lions today. The festival doors don’t open until 9am, so I find a festival rep who smuggles me in the back way. It is amazing to see the enormity and complexity of the behind the scenes operation.

I always enjoy judging, but the energy here is unique. The quality of work is awesome, displaying great insight, clever use of technology and smart thinking. We’re lucky to have this fantastic young talent in our business. To experience it close up is a privilege.

It’s a long, somewhat relentless day taking in each country’s offer and the client, Medecins Sans Frontiers, is wowed by the work. All entries are superb, but in the end UK takes gold, Australia, silver and Argentina, bronze. Also learn that we’ve won a Silver Lion for our fantastic Mercedes YouDrive Campaign. Hurrah.

Feeling inspired and up for a little celebration, I wander down to the Google beach to the WPP Stream Party. It’s full of heavy hitters. At some point, I find myself standing next to Peter Mandelson and make my excuses – anyway, I’ve been invited for whisky and cigars on Vibrant Media’s yacht. So copious and delightful are the varieties on offer I soon wonder if it’s me or the boat that's swaying.

Dinner is with Endeavour group. They’ve begun to find their feet and are full of chat and excitement. I get an early night (in Cannes terms) at 1.30am.


Breakfast is with an old mate Jim Taylor, head of integrated activity for SAB Miller. Fact: Jim has his own microbrewery where he brews incredible beer.

We have an interesting chat about the astonishing growth of beer category value as emerging world consumers enter the category and what communication will look like in 2020.

Into the Palais for an engaging workshop hosted by Peter Knapp, global creative officer and Jane Geraghty, president, EMEA at Landor on being truly disruptive. I like their hypothesis that it’s good to hate things as it makes you strive to improve and repurpose them. 

The Endeavour group takes in P Diddy and Conan O’Brien back-to-back and we discuss, over lunch with Maxus global CEO, Vikram Sakhuja. O’Brien won in their eyes. We also run our upcoming pitches and strategic ideas past Vikram. Fortunately he approves.

After a long, rosé-fuelled lunch it’s into the Palais to see Unilever’s Keith Weed present on 30 years of Lynx Axe. It’s an unmissable insight into how a simple, smart idea can be adapted executionally across products, markets and time.

We journey into the hills above Cannes for WPP drinks with LinkedIn. I chat to Mark Read of WPP Digital, the Possible Worldwide guys and the LinkedIn crew. It is incredibly hot and I’m tempted by the inviting infinity pool, but am beaten to it by Ogilvy’s global head of social media John Bell.

Down the hill for a catch-up with Maxus Europe CEO Federico de Nardis at the Martinez, where we're joined by Demet Ikiler, GroupM Turkey CEO. As well as talking pitches and performance, Demet offers her insight into the situation in Turkey and the ‘standing man’ protest.

Tonight’s yacht invitation (Wine tasting? Yes please) comes from a mobile media owner group. Our dinner venue swiftly evolves into a nightclub, serving up 5-litre caipirinhas with dancing and fireworks thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the starter we’re dancing on the tables, Las Vegas-style.

Yahoo has taken over the casino tonight and despite Jasons Mraz being on stage (the youngsters know of him, apparently), I manage a chilled chat with the mobile entrepreneurs. I leave feeling more positive about cracking this medium beyond apps.

Next is the Microsoft party. Tiesto is DJ-ing. It’s loud, I feel old…so I leave.

I look for a party in the Martinez but it takes an hour to get through seemingly thousands of creatives at the Gutter Bar. It’s 3am so I use the rain as an excuse to call it a day.


Lou Reed is first on the Palais stage today. It’s a brave move to bring in somebody so notoriously difficult to talk to. True to form, he is grumpy and difficult.

My first meeting is with Mark Finney, head of client sales, and Tim Gentry, revenue director of Guardian News and Media to discuss the Maxus view on the global media scene. Our take is different from others, focused on the localisation of work, and we have a good chat about the potential to rewire the approach to global targeting opportunities.

To the main auditorium, where Ogilvy is presenting architect Rem Koolhaas speaking on challenge versus comfort. I agree that our business is becoming increasingly comfortable and we need to shake that up before we get out of touch with the rest of the world.

After a meeting with the festival organisers about their campaigns archive, I join team Endeavour for lunch. Why is it so hard to get anything other than salad and pizza in this town?

Tonight, dinner is with the likes of Vice's Shane Smith, who is funny, charming company, then I take my team out for tequila and margaritas and they get to see me salsa!


Lee Clow, George Lois and Martin Sorrell are today’s highlights. Lois is always genius and today’s talk on the uncompromising desire for brilliant creativity doesn’t disappoint. Martin Sorrell is as eloquent and on top of the big picture as always.

The Endeavour girls go to see the amazing IBM Nano campaign – 'A Boy and his Atom' – made with atoms magnified by 100 million times. If you haven’t seen this, you should.

Shmoozing and boozing aside, Cannes is all about creative excellence and I want to leave with a view on the work. I spend an hour reviewing all the winning Media Lions work and have to say, the quality is the best I've seen in years.

It’s been wonderful to see the festival through fresh eyes via Endeavour. As we head to the airport, we’re inspired to start thinking about the ideas Maxus wants to create and how to implement them across the world. I can’t wait. 

Age:  42
Favourite media:  HBO
My biggest inspiration: Finding new answers to old questions
Dream job: I'd quite like to own a small, experimental, independent distillery
One thing not a lot of people know...I miss being a TV buyer sometimes

Have your say...

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Media Week Jobs
Search for more media jobs


Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up

Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up

Waitrose has joined forces with Channel 4 and produced a Saturday morning lifestyle and cookery programme called 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose', with TV presenters Lisa Snowdon and Steve Jones signed up to front it.

Newspaper ABCs: Guardian smashes through 100m browsers in March 2014

Newspaper ABCs: Guardian smashes through 100m browsers in March 2014

The Guardian reached more than 100 million monthly unique browsers for the first time in March, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures published today.

Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers

Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers

Italians swearing and shouting while sitting behind the wheels of their cars and negotiating the busy streets of Rome could become a thing of the past if they all start driving Toyota's Hybrid vehicles, implies a short film for the car brand.


Get news by email